Best Final Fantasy spin-offs

5. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles

In 1996, the Final Fantasy series officially left Nintendo's systems and went exclusively to PlayStation. For fans that grew up with FF on the SNES, it was a sad turn of events, and it made the eventual homecoming all the sweeter. But Crystal Chronicles changes many of the series most established elements. It ditches active time battles and solo exploration, replacing them with speedy teamwork and innovative dual screen play.

That innovation comes at a cost, namely three Game Boy Advances and three cords to plug them into your GameCube to make for ideal co-op. Predating tablets, the DS, and Wii U Gamepad, all but one player control their character with a GBA, using the extra screen to manage attacks and items. If you have all the tech, exploring the miasma together makes for some engrossing couch co-op, and none of its sequels could top the original's unique approach.

6. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a Darklord

For a very brief period of time, WiiWare seemed like the hot place to publish short-but-sweet games. Before Square Enix abandoned the platform like most third parties, it released two surprisingly fun tower defense games as Wii downloadables. Spinning off from Crystal Chronicles - itself a spin-off - My Life as a Darklord is slightly better than its predecessor, mainly thanks to the darker edge of playing from the bad guy's perspective.

Set right after FFCC: My Life as a King, you play as Mira, the new Darklord who commands a kingdom's worth of monsters. Would-be heroes keep invading her tower, so you set up special traps on the fly to keep them from reaching the dark crystal. Fighting wave after wave will keep your attention, as will the nefarious thrill of playing as a big bad in an FF title. My Life as a Darklord is perhaps the best original game WiiWare ever saw - too bad you can't download it from anywhere else.

4. Kingdom Hearts

Did anyone expect a team-up between Final Fantasy and Disney to be one of the most popular series in modern gaming? Kingdom Hearts is just the action-RPG to prove it possible, and while later entries may ease up on the FF content, the original game features Cloud, Aerith, Squall, and most of FF10's cast in major roles. Their more complex emotions and backgrounds deepen the world of Kingdom Hearts in ways Mickey and the gangs unending positivity cant.

Beyond the confusing sight of Aerith talking to Donald, the story of Kingdom Hearts is a heartfelt one of love, loss, and friendship. Sora must master the Keyblade to find his best friends, and he'll have to vanquish almost every notable Disney villain to do it. The core FF titles that follow adapt some of Kingdom Hearts combat, and Kingdom Hearts visuals and soundtrack hold up well in the recent HD rerelease. Kingdom Hearts has grown into something much bigger, but it all began here, as an excellent Final Fantasy spin-off.

3. Theatrhythm: Curtain Call

One of FFs most consistent features is its music, with composers like Nobuo Uematsu, Masashi Hamauzu, and more crafting some of gamings most harmonious songs. If you were ever going to make a spin-off rhythm game, itd need to be massive to soak in just how many wonderful tunes are in the series catalogue. The more than 200 tracks included show Curtain Call is just such a game.

Virtually every FF title, spin-off or otherwise, is represented in Theatrhythm: Curtain Call, all with at least a stage or two exploring a given games best moments. More than any other release on this list, Theatrhythm: Curtain Call is the most succinct recognition of Final Fantasys legacy, while also being a quality music game in its own right. Tapping along with your stylus is catchy fun, making another listening of Eyes on Me feel special all over again.

2. Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7

Crisis Core is a prequel to one of the most beloved Final Fantasy games ever, but rather than focus on its main characters, it tells the story of the mysterious Zack Fair from SOLDIER. A friend of Clouds, and Aeriths first boyfriend, Zack only made a brief appearance in the original game. His past was ready to be explored, and we're glad Square Enix finally got around to it. Crisis Core fleshes out Zack's history, and creates a poignant story thats very much worth telling.

A contrast to the moody leading men of the series, Zack is likeable, friendly and easy to connect with, which makes the inherent tragedy much more heartbreaking. The game looks gorgeous on PSP, with memorable cutscenes and great gameplay. A fast-paced action-RPG, it is designed to be played in short bursts, delivering what fans have been waiting for... Well, short of a full-on remake of of Final Fantasy 7.

1. Final Fantasy Tactics

Final Fantasy Tactics seems like a potential misfire. It cuts out the fancy graphics and much of the storytelling, and triples the amount of stats, a potential recipe for boredom. But instead of putting players to sleep, Tactics is a cult success, and at launch FFT made the hardcore genre more famous than ever to western gamers. Despite some excellent sequels, the original and its remake are still kings of the isometric battlefield.

The demanding turn-based combat keeps you saying just one more over and over again in each grid-based map, but the true main event is the Job system, which uses Final Fantasy 5s masterful class mechanic, beefing it up with an even more diverse set of skills and abilities. Assigning jobs to the massive roster of characters allows an incredible amount of team customization that consistently rewards trial and error. Later sequels try too hard to mix things up, making the originator not just the best in the sub series, but the best spin-off in Final Fantasy history.

And no, Mario Hoops didn't make it

Those are the best side games that FF has ever seen, but what are your feeling on the rankings? I'm sure you want to just dive into the comments and tell us how right we are. Well, get on it already!

And if you're looking for more things fantastical and final, check out Best Final Fantasy games and The most annoying JRPG cliches (that we still totally love).

Henry Gilbert

Henry Gilbert is a former GamesRadar+ Editor, having spent seven years at the site helping to navigate our readers through the PS3 and Xbox 360 generation. Henry is now following another passion of his besides video games, working as the producer and podcast cohost of the popular Talking Simpsons and What a Cartoon podcasts.